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(506) 2223-1327       Published Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 39       E-mail us
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Expats rally to defend soiled Manuel Antonio park
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A critical e-mail by a supporter of Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio lambasted the business community there for inaction. But the Tuesday message generated support and a renewal of a donation pledge for the endangered park.

The e-mail author is Matthew Cook, who was director of the Fund for Costa Rica when he sought money for the park in November 2007.

". . . we were fortunate to have acquired a dollar-for-dollar matching grant to pay for the installation of state-of-the-art compost toilets to replace the public toilets in the Manuel Antonio National Park," said Cook.  "Our goal was to raise $10,000 from among the hundreds of business owners in the Manuel Antonio area to make the $20,000 project a reality.  Unfortunately the largest, most successful hotels and tour companies in the area decided that the Manuel Antonio National Park wasn’t worth it.  Here we are a year later and now the park’s beaches are so contaminated that the Ministry of Health is threatening to close it."

After an exposé by a local television station, health officials did an inspection and found a lagoon polluted by septic runoff from staff housing, rusting vehicles that provide a breeding ground for dengue mosquitoes and piles of garbage.

The Ministerio de Salud said it would close the park if changes were not made.

Cook's e-mail appears to have started the ball rolling in the right way.  Wally Pereyra, a resident who made the initial offer of matching funds renewed his offer Tuesday to match up to $12,500.
"This situation is deplorable and a disgrace to all that Costa Rica stands for," wrote Pereyra in an e-mail forwarded by Cook.  "Now is the time for action when everyone's eyes have been opened wide.  I want to do my part so I will once again renew my pledge."

Almost immediately,  Steve Aronson, the principal in Cafe Britt, the coffee company, made a public offer of waterless urinals. "We have been using them for a year in our tour facility and factory," said Aronson. Each urinal saves about 40,000 gallons of water per year.

"It would have been better to have solved this problem quietly and quickly last year, before the environmental disaster turned into a PR disaster," said Cook in his e-mail..  "Now it is imperative to act to head off any further PR damage as tourists become more demanding of their vacation destinations in the global economic crisis.  While I am no longer in the business of trying to convince nature tourism businesses to invest in the protection of nature, I will do my part in this disaster because I love the Manuel Antonio National Park."

He said his current firm, Central American Service Expeditions, will donate $500 toward the composting toilets. Septic doesn’t work in the sandy soil near the beach, so the park needs a system like an engineer has proposed, he said. 

"Marketing plans are great, but Manuel Antonio tourism businesses need to put a little money into making sure there is something left to market," he said.

Cook can be contacted through the form on his firm's Web site.


French climate expert praises Costa Rica as a model for the world
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A French diplomat who is involved in climate change gave his support Tuesday to two of Costa Rica's initiatives,  Paz con la Naturaleza and the national climate change strategy.

The diplomat is Brice Lalonde, who is here to talk to Costa Rican officials about a proposed international climate change conference planned for Denmark in December. The attendees will try
to create a document that will substitute for the  Kyoto accords.

Roberto Dobles, the minister of Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicacions, said that France was disposed to help Costa Rica with its strategy because the country is a model for the world.

Lalonde praised the country as an example and said Costa Rica has demonstrated the utility of its actions to confront climate change


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Court orders markers set
for Parque las Baulas


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Sala IV constitutional court has ordered the environmental ministry to put boundary markers at the Parque Marino Las Baulas on the Pacific coast. The ministry was told to work in conjunction with the Instituto Geográfico Nacional.

The markers, called majones in Spanish, are usually concrete posts. There has been controversy over the limits and the adjacent areas around the park.

The most recent decision was brought by a man with the last names of Cabezas Villalobos against the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones, said the Poder Judicial.

The complaint also said that there was pollution in the area and that mangroves had been filled in so that roads could be constructed. The court did not address those issues.

The court gave the ministry three months to have the work done.

When the Tribunal Ambiente Administrativo inspected the area last year, officials said that some majones had been uprooted, but local real estate employees said that the concrete chunks that had been moved were not official markers and were only used to mark boundaries of various building lots.

The park is sensitive because it is a nesting area for turtles and development is encroaching.


Knowledge about HIV
charted by U.N. here


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United Nations surveyed 400 youngsters in Limón and 400 in Puntarenas between 13 and 18 years and found them lacking in knowledge about the human immunodeficiency virus.

The purpose of the study was to obtain a baseline of knowledge and attitudes of youngsters, the U.N. said.

The study found that 6.8 percent of 13 year olds said they were active sexually in Limón and 24.6 percent said they were in Puntarenas. By 18 years 56.3 percent in Limón and 79.2 percent in Puntarenas said they were sexually active, according to the U.N. report..

Between 52.5 and 43.3 percent in each canton were aware of the manner of transmission of HIV, they reported. Some 26.5 percent in Limón and 34.5 percent in Puntarenas rejected myths about transmission of the disease, said the U.N. Population Fund and the U.N. Children's Fund.


Dutch dike expert due
to help with Río Sixaola


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Embassy of Holland said Tuesday that a hydraulic expert from that country will visit Panamá and Costa Rica to cooperate in the design of dikes for the Río Sixaola.

The river is a perennial trouble spot when heavy rains come, and the community of the same name has been flooded out multiple times.

Matthijs van Bonzel, the Dutch ambassador said that Robert van der Weert, the expert, will arrive Thursday. He will spend 15 days here to collect data and visit the river in both countries. He was involved in a similar study in 1995, also with the help of his country. The funds are from the Dutch program for cooperation for development


Inspection of boats
starting in Coco today


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Transport officials will be in Playas del Coco today to conduct inspections for boat captains who want to obtain a seaworthiness certificate.

Inspections will continue on the Pacific coast through the end of March with ports in other seaside towns being visited.

Inspectors from the Dirección de Navegación y Seguridad of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes will look at ownership papers and safety equipment.

Appointments can be made with Playas del Coco port captain at 2670-0216 or by calling the Capitanía General in San José at 2233-5022.


Radio spectrum users
asked to make report


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Those who hold concessions on the country's electromagentic spectum are being asked to report them to the  Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones.

That includes radio and televison stations as well as private commercial and non-commercial users, such as radio locators, paging systems and business radios.

The superintendencia will be turning over the spectrum data to the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones, which will offer availiable frequencies for additional concessions. The resulting Registro Nacional de Telecomunicaciones will be a public document.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 39


Tourist $15 head tax law nearly ready to be published
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The board of directors of the tourism institute has approved regulations that bring into force a $15 head tax on tourists, according to Carlos Ricardo Benavides, minister.

The tax is supposed to bring in about $25 million a year instead of the $10 million now collected via a 3 percent tax on tourism facilities.

Benavides said that tourism officials were waiting for the regulations to be approved before publishing the new law at the same time. Most laws are published first and the regulations bringing them into effect are published later. Publishing is obligatory to make a law official, and most laws require additional regulations to spell out the finer points.

The tourist tax won approval in the legislature Nov. 20, but dropped from sight afterwards. Usually President Óscar Arias Sánchez holds a press conference where he signs important new laws. That did not happen with the tax, although Benavides did say that Arias had signed the measure.
The board of directors of the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo Monday also approved ending the tax on hotels. A number of tourism providers have been uncertain if they should continue collecting the taxes.

Under the new tax, not just tourists will pay. The $15 will be levied on every air ticket that is not sold in Costa Rica regardless of the motive for travel. Costa Rica now has a 5 percent tax on air tickets sold domestically. Officials also complained that residents were buying tickets in other Central American countries to avoid the tax.

Benavides was quoted as saying when the law passed that the nation still will remain competitive because other Central American countries also levied taxes used for promotion. Tourists also pay a $26 exit tax.

Benavides said Tuesday that the new law and the regulations will be published in two or three weeks in the La Gaceta official newspaper and the collection of the new tourism head tax will begin shortly thereafter.

The proceeds of the tax are supposed to be used for promotion, marketing, planning and sustainable development, although such terms are not clearly defined.


Here is a promotional shot from the trans-Atlantic race that shows the type of boats that will participate. The speeds seem to range from 10 to 13 knots, according to Web site accounts.
Atlantic race


Tourism officials will try to attract crowds to sailing race
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The tourism institute will invest $500,000 in promotion to attract tourists to Limón in November for the finish of the Transat Jacques Vabre, a race across the Atlantic by sailboats.

In addition, the Junta de Administración Portuaria y Desarrollo Económica de la Vertiente Atlántica will put up 400 million colons, some $714,000 to construct floating docks for the sailing fleet. The municipality will be in charge of crowd control.

Some 40 boat captains already have signed up for the race.

There will be two boat categories, monohulls and multihulls. The monohulls will leave the port of Le Havre, France, Nov. 7 with the start given at 2 p.m., said organizers. Multihulls will take the starting line the following day, Nov. 8, for the 2 p.m. gun.
Boat captains have several routes they can follow. Two years ago the race ended in Brazil.

The course this year is 4,730 miles for monohulls and 5,005 for multihulls. The boats are expected to be at sea for 12 days or more.

The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo is betting heavily on the spectator turnout. In Brazil there were 270,000 spectators, said the institute. Officials also are counting on the race organizers Pen Duick, to have Limón as a finish in future years. Because the boats traveling from France will not cross the equator, they will not have to weather the doldrums that are the bane of sailors there.

The race began in 1993 and there have been eight editions. Boats from 13 countries are expected.

The tourism institute expected to advertise heavily in France and to have a promotional booth at the starting line.


Spanish Eyes promotion
Cala del Sol


You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 39


Latin America fails to get a mention in Obama's speech
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and wire service reports

There were no direct statements relating to Latin America and those topics dear to residents here when Barack Obama gave his first presidential address to the U.S. Congress Tuesday.

The speech focused entirely on economic recovery in the United States. There was no direct mention of hemispheric concerns, of immigration or of free trade.

Still, the themes the president stressed have broad implications here. He called for energy independence from renewable sources, certainly something that caught the attention of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, a major supplier of petroleum to the United States.

There were broad statements that suggested a defense of the U.S. worker and a pledge to penalize employers who send jobs overseas. He also said government health programs must be reviewed as well as Social Security.

While the primary thrust of his speech was the economy, he paused briefly to speak about overcoming a deficit of trust abroad.

One criticism of the George Bush administration was its lack of involvement in Latin America, even though Bush did put forth the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Obama said the United States will emerge from uncertain economic times stronger than before.

It was a night of pure political theater on Capitol Hill Tuesday. Lawmakers crammed around the aisles of the House chamber as President Obama slowly made his way to the podium to address Congress and the nation. "I've come here tonight not only to address the distinguished men and women in this great chamber, but to speak frankly and directly to the men and women who sent us here," he said.

Obama tried to strike a delicate balance — talking about the economic problems facing the United States in stark terms, while reassuring a recession-weary American public that better days lie ahead. He said after a decade of economic recklessness, America's day of reckoning has arrived.

"We have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter and the next election," he added.

But he said the United States can and will rebound, saying the economic crisis, though severe, must not determine the nation's destiny.
Obama
White House photo
President Obama addresses the joint session of Congress

"While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: we will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States will emerge stronger than before," he said.

Obama said the stimulus plan he signed this week is a first step. But he said it is not enough, citing the need for further action in the areas of health care and education, as well as energy.

He acknowledged money is tight, and tough decisions lie ahead, but he stressed key priorities can be funded, if ineffective programs are cut.

To that end, Obama said his administration has already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next decade, from agriculture to defense.

"We'll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we're not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don't use," he explained.

But the president said his new budget will make an increased investment in military manpower, increasing the number of soldiers and marines.

He reaffirmed his determination to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and said the United States does not torture.

"In words and deeds, we are showing the world that a new era of engagement has begun. For we know that America cannot meet the threat to this country alone, but the world cannot meet them without America," he added.


Nicaraguan grassroots health organization being honored by United Nations
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A Nicaraguan non-governmental organization has been awarded this year’s United Nations Population Award, which recognizes outstanding work in population and health.

The Movimiento Comunal Nicaragüense was one of two recipients chosen from 18 nominees by a committee.

The organization was created in 1978 and seeks to boost living conditions in Nicaragua through social and
community development, gender equality and environmental protection. Working in 120 municipalities and 2,000 local communities, it mobilizes some 20,000 people such as community leaders, teachers and midwives.

Most recently, the organization has centered on young people, aiming to improve gender relations, wipe out violence, prevent sexually transmitted infections and reduce teen pregnancies. A representative of the organization will receive the award, a diploma and a gold medal,  in New York June 1.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 39



A.M. Costa Rica

users guide


This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Statistics

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Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

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Former Salvadoran official
faces immigration counts


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. authorities have charged a former defense minister for El Salvador with two counts of immigration fraud.

If convicted, Gen. José Guillermo Garcia could face 15 years in prison on charges of using a Salvadoran passport he allegedly obtained illegally and for lying to U.S. immigration authorities.

The former defense minister, who lives in the U.S. state of Florida, is expected to surrender once he hires a lawyer.

Garcia was one of two Salvadoran generals ordered by a U.S. court to pay $54.6 million in damages to three Salvadoran civilians in a torture case. The plaintiffs in the 2002 case said they fled their homeland after being brutalized by Salvadoran troops during their country's civil war in the early 1980s.

One of the torture survivors who testified in that case, Neris González, welcomed the latest charges against Garcia. She said the charges handed down Monday do not match the severity of the atrocities Garcia presided over in El Salvador. But, she called the indictment a "concrete step forward toward accountability."

El Salvador's civil war spanned more than 12 years and involved the military government as well as leftist and right-wing guerrillas. The conflict ended in 1992 when the government and guerrillas signed peace accords. About 75,000 people died in the war.

Controversial bishop
leaves his Argentine refuge


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A British Catholic bishop who caused an international uproar by denying the Holocaust has left Argentina, after the government in Buenos Aires threatened to expel him.

Television images showed ultra-traditionalist Bishop Richard Williamson raising his fist and scuffling with a reporter Tuesday as he prepared to board a flight for London. Two men accompanying the bishop restrained the reporter.

Musical donation planned

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United States is donating musical instruments, microphones, amplification equipment and chairs to the  Escuela de Música de Pavas, which is part of the  Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical. Also being donated are audivisual equipment and videos for the public libraries in Liberia and in Zaragoza de Palmares, said the U.S. Embassy.

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